States first need to develop consensus about the amount of resources needed
to reach their attainment goals.
The drive to increase postsecondary attainment follows in the wake of the greatest economic recession since the Great Depression. During the recession, states made significant cuts to their higher education budgets, and while some are starting to restore funding, institutions cannot expect state funding to return to its previous levels. Tuition has increased significantly in many states, and student debt burdens are reaching a breaking point. Further, to reach more low-income students and working adults, institutions and systems must find ways to lower costs and accelerate time to degree completion for students.
These recommendations provide clear, detailed steps to increase higher education attainment, while also maintaining the flexibility to respond to unique conditions and the needs of each state. Each state will determine how best to create a policy environment that supports efforts to increase higher education attainment and reach Goal 2025.
Systems of higher education are being asked to serve more students and to ensure their success with fewer resources. To succeed, states will need to rethink how they allocate resources to both institutions and students. Money can be a powerful lever for incentivizing institutions and individuals to take actions that best support student enrollment, progression and completion. States first need to develop consensus about the resources needed to reach their attainment goals. Then, they need funding and financial aid policies that allocate resources in ways that support their goals. They also need innovative models of delivery that encourage timely completion and lower the costs of postsecondary programs. Finally, states should ensure that postsecondary programs in their states are producing graduates in fields where demand is greatest—align investments with state priorities and student needs.
The policy options listed below provide details, evidence and some examples for state and system leaders to consider as they work to advance this core element. Policymakers and higher education leaders are encouraged to use this set of resource tools as appropriate and most relevant to meet their individual state’s needs for increasing attainment.